Tuesday, February 28, 2017

mississippi ave octet


the heavenly bamboo’s topped in new scarlet
growth, & the spurge foliage curls, fringed violet—

a pastel blue banner with pink gold purple
floral print ripples in a breeze, balloons sprout

beside the planter’s Lenten rose; crabapple
holds last year’s fruit against this impossibly

azure sky: guarding a red door a wooden
Ganesha plays the flute, holding one carved note

Jack Hayes
© 2017

This is the final poem composed for the new collection (though not the final poem in the book in terms of sequencing), & it may be the final poem from the new collection to appear on the blog. The collection is titled Crow on the Wire & will be available for purchase sometime in March if all goes according to plan. It will be available in the usual places: lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & I’ll post more about this in due course, with all the relevant links & so forth.

Robert Frost’s Banjo is going on a brief vacation for the remainder of the week, but will return on Sunday, March 5th with the Sunday Music feature. See you then.

Monday, February 27, 2017

february moon

(8 quatrains)

1. new moon

white cabin cruiser churns its wake across high
rises reposing in the water—five sculls 

at anchor just past mirrored Hawthorne towers:
unseen satellite in invisible sky

2. waxing crescent

calligraphy of the one crow winging south;
gray magnolia bracts pointing to what comes

next & upward past black intersecting wires:
pale arc like a keel rising, sinking in blue

3. half moon

white corona of iced cherry boughs under
the streetlight; rosemary needles glazed too but

reflect nothing except when a car goes past—
rainfall through the halfway glow, the halfway black

4. waxing  gibbous

spiderweb angled across the doorframe traced
silver in white porchlight & front steps washed black

in earlier rain: circumferenced by clouds, that
circle always constant, light always shifting

5. full moon

three camellias have unfolded white beyond
porchlight’s reach; still, the lace curtain has picked up

both glimmer & sharp leaf shadows; unfazed by
clouds in shambles: consummated white circle

6. waning gibbous

white pickets streaked with black algae rise stark in
streetlights; rhododendrons clasping buds tight cast

a web of shadows across the pale sidewalk:
clouds draw lines through the blurred diminished circle

7. last quarter

black station wagon headlights headed north past
the avenue’s twisted bare-limbed cherries; one

cedar spires against lapis lazuli sky:
flock of crows flies past the hazy quarter sphere

8. waning crescent

crow takes its place that one moment in weeping
cherry’s tangled hair, lifts up its wings, takes flight,

nonchalant, without comment through blue shimmer:
crow may perceive that trace of the letter C

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Noumi, noumi yaldatii"

We end this month’s feature on Montserrat Figueras with a video in which she sings the beautiful Hebrew lullaby “Noumi, noumi yaldatii” accompanied by her family—Jordi Savall playing viol, Ferran Savall playing theorbo & vocalizing, Arianna Savall playing harp & singing. They are joined by long-time Savall collaborator, percussionist Pedro Estevan. Figueras’ range of material was impressive, & she could give as beautiful a rendition of a Monteverdi aria as a simple lullaby,

Figueras also recorded this lullaby on the Hespèrion XXI album, Mare Nostrum, released on Alia Vox in 2011.

Plans for the blog in March are a bit up in the air, but we will continue with the Sunday music series, so please check back next week!

Montserrat Figueras, Kraków, 31.03.2010, Misteria Paschalia Festival. 31 March 2010
Photo by: Wiki Commons contributor Mrug, who makes it available under the following licenses: GNU Free DocumentationLicense, Version 1.2 or any later version; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0Generic & 1.0 Generic

Friday, February 24, 2017

double-double octet from a tuesday evening


two eggs, scrambled in unsalted butter, one
medium red potato, home fried—plantains

were green—two vegetarian sausage links;
weighed today at the doctor, I’ve turned into

a ghost, just words & breath, black t-shirts, gym pants,
shock of sixty-year old hair streaked white, but full—

born lucky with bad lungs; olive oil whispers,
hunger: if rain answers I can’t make it out

so I told her, the doctor, I don’t want to
wither: katsuras in drizzle mostly moss

& gray bark—& how do rhododendron buds
grow scales all winter, silent & silent, bloom

then in technicolor May tongues; my next lives:
a ripple in the river, a crow’s feather

floating from a maple, one letter in a
poem, echo of a shoe on wet pavement

yesterday in a room just this much too warm
talk of praying with the dying brought to mind

a chord in an open tuning: let it ring
today February settled in my lungs:

it has a room there, walls all watercolors,
lamps refracting raindrops, the books all begin

with Japanese maples forgetting crimson,
with every street changed into a mirror

tomorrow: vegetable broth, bamboo shoots,
mushrooms, chili oil, tamari, green onions

simmering in a black stock pot; earlier,
rain will put her hands on my shoulders, proving

I haven’t faded, forsythia’s branches
will reach out yellow past tai chi studio

windows, my rib cage dilated to make room—
hope in one breath let go, the word I’ll give you

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

birds in rain quatrain

two gulls’ gray-white descent from a gray-white sky
to a black-shingled roof; crow on rain-blackened

sidewalk takes off, flies low; one scrub jay sings in
triplets in a white-blooming camellia

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

octet through a #4 bus window


there's no pattern to the raindrops unless you
look for it—rhododendron overhanging

that moss-fraught retaining wall seems heavy though;
one crow flies over an empty parking lot,

school children clustered in blue, yellow, red,
purple raincoats wait for the light, one clutching

a floral umbrella; no one on park swings:
black ripples along the curb run this way too

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Two More Octets

22nd ave octet

mauve crocuses rising like the lawn’s desire,
delicate, sure, but headstrong, insistent in

front of a balconied stucco house; next door,
seven pink lawn flamingos variously

faded from sun, but not today’s sun, circle
sleeping tulips—of course they’ll wake up, & I

might see that too; elsewhere, an empty window
box once painted barn red, now peeled to raw wood


mississippi ave octet

where the Chinese evergreen oak lets down its
green hair, so generous, the filaments burn,

amber triangles in teardrop bulbs dangling
between posts; of course the Japanese maple’s

waking up back of the slat fence; down the street,
two Mylar heart balloons float on white ribbons

near locked bicycles; after walking six miles
it seems safe to say desire is infinite

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Octets

mississippi ave octet

slats on the garden bench look rickety; it
leans away from a whisky barrel planter

crammed with dead vines; the fig tree branches
out smooth, taupe, pruned; rose bush can’t let go of those
last dozen black leaves; daffodils perforate
clay, fern fronds struggle through bricks laid at random—

the orange tabby cat hunches on porch steps,
eyes fixed where sun might take cover past rooftops


alberta st octet

lime green chair tipped over in the vacant lot,
beside it on asphalt a tree limb speckled

with lichen; by a black rocker two black cats
stare out yellow eyed from a porch; the boxwood

is clipped, a shovel with yellow blade lies down
by a white fluted flower urn gone askew

& moldy; magnolia figo grows dense
past a board fence put there perhaps for graffiti

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Yo soy la locura”

Today’s Sunday Music selection features Montserrat Figueras, accompanied by Hespèrion XXI. The recording is from their 2007 Alia Vox album, Ludi Musici.

This setting for “Yo soy la locura” was composed by Henri de Bailly, who lived in the early 17th century. A rough translation of the original Spanish follows:

I am Folly
Which solely inspires
Pleasure, sweet feeling,
& joy in this world.

All serve my name,
Whether in great things or poor
Yet there is no man
Who thinks himself a fool.

You can find the original text at this link.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Giotto: The Seven Vices - Foolishness (1306, Fresco, 120 x 55 cm, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, Italy) – 1306
Public domain

Friday, February 17, 2017

albina ave double octet


waxing moon with sea of tranquility framed
between utility lines; a chair, white paint

peeling, carved seat holding water, appears to
be free; rain’s stopped & one stratocumulus

takes on the cedar’s contours, billowing east;
tires are stacked four high between  heaped bramble

& chain link; a crack in that side street’s pavement
curves west toward the watertower’s black rise

a privacy screen woven from dried bamboo:
lawn chair half visible past it & windows

mirroring buildings reflecting this late light—
down the street a fence rail lashed to a tree trunk

with nylon rope, a pink child’s car flipped over,
a curbside basketball hoop with blue backboard;

inside a cedar’s skirts a flock of juncos
chirps electric, naming the liminal hour

Jack Hayes
© 2016

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Two Octets from the North End

kerby ave octet

red push reel mower collapsed on a sloped lawn
under a camellia; were this summer,

a corner to take in shade on fresh trimmed grass;
but this grass droops shaggy, nobody’s in sight,

& the drizzle is a cold kiss on cold skin;
a pergola draped in honeysuckle’s bones

leads no place: around the corner a holly
hides the scrub jay, its glissando going sharp


vancouver ave octet

fractured cedar branches laid out by the curb,
a rose-pink parks & rec sign with white letters

uprooted on a lawn, 5-gallon bucket
filling with rainwater where bergenia leaves

pile up—tires hiss south down the avenue;
ivy vines gone dormant on pickets glisten:

one streetlight shines up from the puddle raindrops
ripple as if they wrote the script for kindness

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Two Octets from Early February

ice storm morning octet

beyond window glass, gray clouds shifting northwest;
ice glaze on the asphalt still gathers fragments

from lights not yet extinguished as day rises:
the cedars sway in their row, keeping tempo,

then halt—four crows strut the lot, a fifth glides on
imagined wind; last night, frozen staccato

tapping the window screen; these alien codes,
these shingles gone white, these dreams that don’t wake up


6th ave octet

rainwater plunges from terracotta cornices,
hits the brick sidewalk, a window atomized—

across the avenue a single green bike
locked & fragile where Corinthian columns

rise higher than catenaries—whirling stream
sweeps leaves past the curb;  bus shelter roof glass

multiplies water fractals, frozen, liquid:
above, white icicles on one plane tree branch

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"In an Enclosed Garden with Su Dongpo, John Young Hunter, & Charles Wright"

In an Enclosed Garden with Su Dongpo, John Young Hunter, & Charles Wright

A lull in the wind, pause between snowfalls,
between scattered stars, crescent moon long set.
She eats rice pudding in bed, licks the spoon,
construes poetry instead of sleeping.
On the wall beyond her feet curious
birds peer from the verdure. A lion cub
sinks his teeth into a startled pheasant.
On the wall behind her head, an enclosed garden,
a cherry tree - bound and staked, blooming yet.
A woman reaches for a peacock perched
in pink blossom, at her hem another
spreads its golden tail, its myriad eyes.
Nothing between one end and the other
but time and the centipedes of night.

© 2017

NOTE: The poem refers to Charles Wright’s poem “Time And The Centipedes Of Night”, which itself refers to a ci poem Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (AKA Su Shi) wrote to the tune “Partridge Sky.” The poem also refers to the painting by John Young Hunter used here as an illustration. The painting dates to between 1899 & 1910, & thus the image is in the public domain.

Monday, February 13, 2017

kerby ave double octet


welcome mat with three woven sunflowers laid
cockeyed across parking strip grass; on the porch

an orange vinyl loveseat, upholstery
split; next door, a wading pool turned upside down

on black plastic by sleeping rhododendrons,
their buds clutched against this heatless & windblown sun—

on the far side of a cherry’s engraved bark,
crow perches atop a blue recycling bin

under Tuscan capped columns, a black lantern
apparently nonchalant on a white post,

a stone wall maybe too perfect, baby blue
pail on the front steps—up the street a copper

planter with no sign of growth, glazed blue birdbath
listing north, the Japanese maple waiting

for next season, garden bench by a craftsman
column: crow’s wings open beyond all those wires

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

“La Rosa Enflorece”

Today’s Sunday music feature showcases Montserrat Figueras singing the beautiful medieval Sephardic romance, “La Rosa Enflorece”. She is accompanied by Hespèrion XXI, directed by Jordi Savall. The recording is from their box set Dinastia Borgia, released on Alia Vox in 2009.

An English translation of the lyric may be found at this link, while the Spanish lyric can be found here.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Codex Manesse, UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 20r: Graf Rudolf von Neuenburg - between 1305 and 1315
Public domain.

Friday, February 10, 2017

thursday inventory octet


on the one hand, scissors with Thulian pink
grip, a single hole punch; on the other hand,

a condenser mic on black & chrome tripod—
wind from the gorge strews papers across the lot,

cedar boughs swirl frenetic & the one gull
dives & swoops from roof peak to green concrete blocks

surrounding the dumpster—right in front of me:
chord chart for a waltz that will never be waltzed

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

21st ave octet


two flower pots glazed ultramarine on a
porch table, plants withered, drooping, nameless now—

six cherry trees sleep black by the curb; through blinds:
table lamps, upholstery, life’s evidence,

while leaves, so many small brown hands, scrape
concrete, caught in gusts promising only ice—

arrows spray painted white on that sidewalk:
equal sign sprayed orange on adjacent grass  

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

alberta st octet


patio deserted except for one crow;
one crimson & one beige curtain embracing

as they drape from the wire balcony; bamboo
culms painted on orange walls, a white lotus

too enclosed in a blue circle; actual
calluna & eucalyptus spring green out

front: a second crow lands on shingled eaves out
back; three more on a wire—all five shift places 

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Two Late January Octets

28th ave octet

burgundy, zaffre, gold balloons on ribbons
float at the parking lot gate; three bare maples,

bark almost white where moss hasn’t taken hold,
gesture without regard for geometry—

mural of Sun Wukong, lance brandished: curved bridge,
clouds circling clouds, triangular coral mountains—

green building’s roof notched where the catalpa bough
inclines then juts upward, receiving one crow


willamette river octet

white throng of gulls across the black Willamette
afloat under the seawall or thrashing air

in parabolic flight between light towers;
a scrub jay’s shrill invisible outburst from

green flood of arbutus & bramble below
the Eastbank Freeway; south of the Morrison

two cormorants share a log where current swirls,
each lifting dark wings as though flying in place

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

double interstate ave octet


if I knew where that aluminum rowboat
might sail, I’d tell you; for now it’s tipped over

on concrete back of a fence while a MAX train
slows for Killingsworth Station, electronic bell

clanging adamant 6/8 time; some sun, sure,
but diffused through frozen multiplicity

of clouds by the ton, spilling out ring-tailed gulls:
all this life, a heart set on rivers & seas

ambulance lights bloom no more crimson than
camellia blossoms over that heap of

shattered concrete blocks in the lawn’s corner; if
you look south through washed-out pampas grass tufts

there’s light spreading through broken stratus: whitecaps
thronging this corner of infinite ocean—

another MAX train sails past through traffic’s tide:
it is hard to stay long in an empty house

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Note: The italicized lines are taken from my translation of Du Fu’s 破船
pò chuán, that is “Broken Boat” (the second is slightly altered for syllable count & emphasis). You can read my translation, along with notes compiled by Sheila Graham-Smith & myself at this link.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Troisième leçon de ténèbres

February is upon us—& Sunday came upon me more quickly than I’d planned, so today’s post is a bit late. The featured musician for Sunday Music in February is MontserratFigueras, the great Catalan soprano who often performed with her husband Jordi Savall in such early music consorts as Hespèrion XX (later Hespèrion XXI) & La Capella Reial de Catalunya

Today’s selection presents her in a duet with Argentinian soprano María Cristina Kiehr, performing Couperin’s "Leçons de ténèbres pourle mercredi saint" ("Tenebrae Readings for Holy Wednesday").  The recording is from the soundtrack to Tous les Matins du Monde.

Looking forward to bringing you other selections of Figueras' always inspired & inspiring music throughout the month.

Image links to its source at NPR.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

two albina ave octets



picket fence, chicken wire, broken tiki lamp
laid against peeling paint on white clapboards, one

tire, a dirt pile, a black wading boot attached
to a downspout, boxwood hedge draining green to

yellow, serape with big scarlet stripe hangs,
fading curtain in one window—wheelbarrows

on the lawn, one tipped on end, the green metal
one on its side: afternoon won’t come together


five-gallon soy sauce bucket with jagged rim
presents its pyramid of empty bottles

topped by a Coke pint with a broken neck: so
much for the parking strip—bicycle rims sunk

halfway in soil make a garden fence for spent
roses; the front step hydrangea’s petrified

blossoms are on the nod; next door a copper
flower pot holding nothing at all today

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

two vancouver ave octets


the two benches simply boards laid across stumps
in cedar wood chips & the pale shaggy grass

leaning south—in one raised bed sprouting beet greens,
a single kohlrabi, parsley, tarragon

long since gone past; nothing but emerald curl
of scallions in the next under a staked sign

rain has nearly erased; fence made of pallets:
spray painted letters, illegible designs


wood rocking horse at the porch corner behind
white spindle balusters; on the lawn, yucca

blades slump above brick walkways; golden rain tree
holds its hollow pods out of reach, ironwood’s

coriaceous leaves hang lower as buds rise,
leafless paperbark maple stretches branches

into power lines—single crow flying first
southeast across blue veers due south into gray

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

three esplanade octets



a song sparrow alights amidst red cane bramble;
leaves flutter every time its tail feathers twitch—

& madrona’s berries have disappeared
except one vermilion berry sparkling in

sunlight amidst twigs & leaf fall; mullein stalks
rise beside the walkway, dessicated blooms

perpetuating last autumn—but see! pale green
rosettes spread ungainly leaves in the new grass


amongst the promulgation of padlocks clasped
to the fence overlooking the river’s flow,

a rusted iron heart fastened with a pink
lock, a black lock dangling below both incribed

with names that needn’t be mentioned—two big logs
float ineluctably toward the Burnside Bridge

midstream, one stripped of bark, wood glazed almost red:
like love, nothing about that current lingers


past the web of the sweet gum’s branches, its few
remnant seed pods & leaves not yet released to

the water, two cormorants are moving south
against the stream—a butterfly bush halfway

down the bank suspends last August’s dried blossoms
between water’s cryptic lines & sky’s pages

of cumulus & light coming all the way
down to the pussywillow’s proffered catkins

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

double interstate ave octet


red & gold Sun Wukong banners, faded, creased
at year’s end, edge the restaurant patio—

fence boards splashed white, with screws protruding; inside,
brittle bamboo untended in a barrel—

green wine bottle at the curb where yesterday’s
rain washed exhausted snow to the street—weeping

spruce on a lawn next to the tiki bar, its
sphere lights suspended in nets, not yet glowing

blue plastic chairs stacked six high under the faux
grass awning—bike rack in the form of Easter

Island mo’ai, melon orange to double
the curb fire hydrant rising from its moss

circle—down the street a single audacious
camellia blossom unfolds magenta—

the motel’s big palm tree sign ascends unlit
against unsettled sky as the train passes

Jack Hayes
© 2017